Q:
Mario, if we look at Formula 1 first, you obviously have to be pleased with the way the BMW team performed in 2007?

Mario Theissen:
We are on-track, I would say. Two years ago we finished eighth in the constructors' championship, last year we achieved fifth and this year in our view we are third - we were handed second place, but that doesn't really count. We are proud of third, though, and we are clearly on an upward slope which gives us good motivation and a good basis for next year's car.

Q:
You were consistently the best-of-the-rest behind Ferrari and McLaren this year. What in your mind do you have to improve on to reach their level in 2008?

MT:
As opposed to 2006, this year I didn't see a particular weakness. In 2006 we were quite slow on slow (high downforce) tracks, but this has been cured and it's now about finding the ultimate three-to-five per cent in all areas. Clearly you can gain the most in terms of lap time from aero development, so that is what we are focussing on. I can say we are on-track again with the new car, both time-wise in terms of the schedule and also performance-wise. We have a target curve of what we want to achieve, and it looks good.

Q:
Obviously you've got Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica coming back next year. How much do you think that continuity will help the team?

MT:
Continuity is an important factor in Formula 1 - you need experienced people and you need an orchestrated team and effort. Only then can you be successful, so that is important to me.

Q:
You've seen two of your test-drivers - Sebastian Vettel and Timo Glock - move onto other teams for next season. How disappointing is it for you not to have been able to give them their race chance in Formula 1 with BMW?

MT:
It's not disappointing to me; I would say it's rather natural. There are a lot of competitive drivers fighting for very few seats, and it is clear that a newcomer has to work up through the ranks. It is normal for me that they get a chance and take that chance elsewhere. That doesn't necessarily mean they will stay elsewhere, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to get them back in our car one day.

Q:
You've said their replacement as the test or reserve driver will only be decided after the winter tests. Can we expect to see another German possibly in the line-up, or are you going to expand your search beyond Germany?

MT:
We are certainly looking beyond Germany - we have always done that. The fact we had two German guys this year is not so much about their nationality, but more about their having been part of Formula BMW. It is quite easy for us to rate someone who we have worked with for one or two years in Formula BMW, so they have an advantage, but it's not down to nationality. We are looking worldwide, and certainly also to guys who have not been in Formula BMW before.

Q:
We saw Christian Vietoris get his first taste of a Formula 1 car at Valencia during the Formula BMW World Final weekend. How highly do you rate him?

MT:
I think he too carries the potential to become a Formula 1 driver, but it will certainly take another two or three years to get there.

Q:
There are going to be some rule changes in Formula 1 next year, including no traction control and a mandatory single ECU. What are your views on these?

MT:
In the first instance it meant a lot of work for us, as well as additional costs; we are still quite busy getting this work done, tuning the car and the dyno environment back in the factory to the new electronics, but I'm sure we will get it done.

Q:
It's been a controversial year for Formula 1 with the spy row, and then in Brazil with yourselves and Williams being dragged into the fuel row. Do you hope the sport can put all this behind it for next year and move on?

MT:
Yes, certainly. I think we had a few too many legal issues this year, and that shouldn't dominate the sport. On the other hand, if there are things like this they have to be sorted out properly, and I hope these will be behind us before the first race of next season.

Q:
Obviously BMW has also been very successful in other areas this season, with Andy Priaulx taking a third straight World Touring Car Championship title. Do you think as it stood a few laps from the end of race one in Macau, that he would be world champion again?

MT:
No. I have to admit, it was quite clear to me before the end of the first race that we would not win, but then anything can happen, especially in Macau. Andy is the man who never gives up, who is always ready and thinking one step ahead of the others, so when the chance arrived he was there and he took it again. It's been a very special achievement for all of us, because we couldn't expect it.

Q:
Do you think BMW is going to be able to take a fourth WTCC title next year? It's obviously a very closely-fought championship.

MT:
Firstly, we have to wait now for next year's regulations. It became clear in the second half of the season that the diesel engine has an advantage, so now we have to see how the FIA reacts for next year, and then we will check if we have the right car for this. I certainly hope we can win again.

Q:
Could we see a diesel BMW in the championship next year?

MT:
If the regulations stay as they are, in my view you would need a diesel to win next year, but such a decision hasn't been made so far.

Q:
Finally, 2007 marked the third Formula BMW World Final. How successful do you think the category has been, and what promise do you see in the batch of drivers taking part this year?

MT:
I think Formula BMW has established itself very well on a worldwide basis as the premium entry-level single-seater category for young drivers, not just in terms of racing but also in terms of the comprehensive educational programme they get. Like in previous years, I saw a lot of promising drivers in Valencia.

It's important for me that they demonstrate what they have learnt in Formula BMW over one or two years in the upper formulae, and I certainly watched how they performed and made progress. It's always fun to see how the kids develop, and I certainly hope that again we will see a few of them knocking at the door to Formula 1 in a few years.

Q:
Do you think the new European Formula BMW series next year will raise the bar even further in terms of competition?

MT:
Yes, I think so. It's been a very tough competition for the entries already, which we didn't expect. We had 40 applications for 13 team positions, which was just overwhelming. Racing under the eyes of the Formula 1 fans and teams takes the championship to a different level, and we can see already that there will be fierce competition next year.

Q:
How important was it to get the championship aligned with Formula 1?

MT:
It's been very important, because the championship will become much more recognised worldwide, while sponsor opportunities are much better now too. Obviously the costs are rising a bit as well, but the drivers will get to know the Formula 1 tracks and environment which is very appealing to them, so we have lots of entries and lots of drivers who want to be there next year.

Q:
You've attracted some attention from GP2 teams as well...

MT:
Yes, but that is obvious because they will be there anyway, so it's not such a big effort for them to operate a Formula BMW team in parallel. I think it's good if a driver can take the next step on the ladder with the same team, so it creates some opportunities.

 

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